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Obama wants to cut F-35 2nd engine

September 21, 2010 (by Lieven Dewitte) - President Barack Obama is committed to ending funding this year for a second engine being developed for the multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Monday.

GE-RR F136 engine [Rolls-Royce photo]

"The president's serious about drawing the line," Gibbs told , referring to Obama's threat to veto any defense spending bill that funds a alternate F-35 engine being built by General Electric and Britain's Rolls-Royce.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been consistently opposed to funding two engines for the F-35. He loudly labeled it a waste of taxpayer dollars during Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearings last fall and winter.

Lawmakers, arguing that competition will save money in the longer run, have repeatedly rejected administration efforts to cancel the GE-Rolls engine. The GE engine is being developed as an alternate to the engine built by Pratt & Whitney, that powers early-production versions of the Lockheed Martin F-35. The first GE test flight is scheduled for 2011 and engine production and delivery set to begin in 2013.

The defense appropriations subcommittee in the House approved $450 million for the second engine program in July.

Proponents say the F-35 engine market is worth $100 billion in the longer term, and competition will force both suppliers to lower their prices. A second engine would also be an insurance policy in case of a problem that might otherwise ground the entire F-35 fleet.